Phoebe French

Phoebe French

Year: 3rd Year

Degree: History

Phoebe French is president of the St Andrews Fine Food and Dining Society. This year the society has enjoyed a number of successful events, including the Valentine’s Day chocolate dinner in Pittenween, and of course the annual Fine Food Fayre. It’s a society for people that love food and dining experiences and educates people through cooking classes – from beginners and those wanting to learn how to cook a specific cuisine. Phoebe is ostentatiously passionate about all things food. She is a fan of a variety of chefs, including one of her idols: Jamie Oliver. She enthuses that Jamie is very clever with flavours and is proficient in a diverse range of cuisines. Additionally, Phoebe cites that she is going through an ‘ottlengi phase’, having received all of his books for Christmas. In particular, his recipes contain wonderful filling salads – low in calories but filling enough not to be disheartening.

Although evidently inspired by a number of celebrity chefs, her chief cooking inspiration is her mother. Phoebe was lucky enough to have a mother who would always cook everything from scratch. This inspiration inspired Phoebe to start cooking, and cooking seriously. While on a gap year, Phoebe went to Ballymaloe Cooking Course in Ireland for a twelve week cooking course. The course is located on an organic farm and is not only is it a cooking course, but you also have the opportunity to make cheese, feed hens and lean about wine. Whilst on the course you can learn about introduction to the catering industry and the food business. After the experience of cooking in such an liberated environment it has given Phoebe the confidence to cook without using a recipe. She also learnt the mechanics of cooking, and how so much about cooking is down to flavour and knowing what spices compliment each other. Can you tell that I want to do this course?

The Fine Food Festival is also one of the highlights of the society, one of which Phoebe is very proud of and personally one of my favourite events of the year. This year the concept has been rebranded from scratch and had the novel addition of food vans inside, and the continuation of some inspiring food demonstrations which included a demonstration from Jamie from Rocca, a local celebrity after recently appearing on Master Chef. Phoebe highlights that she really enjoys the event because it is a chance to support small businesses from all over Scotland and also provides the opportunity to raise a considerable amount of money for charity.

When she has time, Phoebe also updates her own blog. Indeed, she says that most of her phone is filled with pictures of food and dogs. The Fine Food Society also has a page devoted to ‘food porn’ – check it out as everybody loves looking at food! She also enjoys making up her own recipes, especially more unusual things, such as cooking with gin! Recipes include standard bread with gin and hot ginger bread with a gin glaze over the top, sounds delicious! She makes the effort to cook every evening, but that she gets most of her pleasure from cooking for other people, such as when she cooked Christmas dinner for her entire family! ‘It’s hard to cook for one’ she tells me! On another side Phoebe is also involved in the university wine tasting team that partakes in competitions and involves trying to identify the grape, the region, flavour and ‘tasting notes.’ Pheobe tells me that through these competitions she has learnt so much and is looking into it as possible future employment.

In terms of Student meals Phoebe suggests soups as a good idea as they are inexpensive and can be frozen allowing you to make a big batch to last through the week. Phoebe also suggests a vegetable soup that is delicious if served with a little bacon and to be careful not to wiz the vegetables but just to sweat them and season them nicely. Also Ottelengi has some interesting salads that don’t take long to make, and goes well with salmon (important brain food for students!).

Phoebe is enthusiastic about not only the food and dining options within St Andrews itself, but also the wide variety of local product shops in St Andrews. In St Andrews, Phoebe says that there are too many options and it depends on the occasion for her preferred place, but when pressed and after a deliberation – proffers the suggestion of Cottage Kitchen or Balgrove larder for Lunch and for the evening Phoebe suggests the Adamson. She relates that the restaurant has improved considerably since she has been in St Andrews, and is enthusiastic about the Master Chef connection. Additionally, she recommends the St Andrews Sea food restaurant. Not only the local dining choices, St Andrews is additionally fortunate because it has a plethora of local produce shops which are mainly located on south street, including the Butchers, the greengrocers and the incredible and diverse range at Balgrove larder. In addition St Andrews is lucky enough to have two cheese shops which play host to dairy products from all over Scotland and the country, and furthermore the fishmongers, which, although Phoebe admits is a little expensive, has amazing fish with labels detailing exactly where the produce is from. Indeed, we are lucky to live in such a culinary town.

In the future, Phoebe is hoping to work in the drinks industry, already having experience having worked for a wine company. Her motivation, along with her obvious enthusiasm for food and wine, is the desire to enter a trade which she enjoys that is fun.

Queen Fire Round:

Favourite ice-cream flavour: Pistachio

Favourite condiment: Truffle Sauce

Favourite cheese: Epoisses cheese, it’s really stinky

Hung-over food: Anything greasy

Favourite TV food programme: Saturday Kitchen; Keith Floyd – he just drinks wine; and anything Jamie Oliver does

Least favourite food programme: I’m not a massive fan of Rachel Khoo, who starts in The Little Paris Kitchen

Scottish food: I have always loved haggis, but I have never made it

Weirdest food you have tried: I went to Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant and tried a cox comb, which is the bit on the top of the chicken’s head, it tasted of mushrooms. As a child I would order liver off the menu!